Blackfriars Bridge October 12th!

BE THERE!

The LCC sent out a newsletter yesterday with information about the next Blackfriars bridge flashride. Giving us plenty of warning about the next date to try and attract as many cyclists as possible. It’s important that we show up in numbers to show just how important it is.

TFL has shown their true intentions very clearly, they are car centric, in a city which already has awful congestion problems and pollution problems. They want people to get as quickly as possible from A to B whilst they are in their cars. This in turn puts cyclists and pedestrians in danger as they increase the speed limit and decrease the space we have to use.

It’s time for action, cyclists in the city and ibikeslondon have been pushing this forward for quite some time, but they and the rest of us need help from everyone to protest against this, even if don’t use this bridge. It is important to come along and add to the protest, if TFL win this ‘war’ then who knows what they will do to us next!

Show your support on the LCC page and by turning on Blackfriars bridge on Wednesday the 12th of October at 5.45pm.

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Magicshine MJ-808 Review

Turn night into day with a seriously good value for money bicycle light that rivals products 10 times its cost!

I’ll start off by saying that the lumen ratings are slightly off, the ratings are the best possible outputs with the components they used and not a true representation of the light output. The 900 lumen lights put out closer to 500 lumens. That is still a good amount of money for the cost of the light!
The Magicshine range of lights are far from a perfect product, if you can work around the slight issues then the light can be a great one.

The lights primary design is for off-road. This is clearly visible in the beam pattern that it produces, it is fairly wide and is not ideal for using on the road, especially at full power. For commuting purposes you can get around this buy using it on the half power setting or by pointing it only 2 meters in front of you, this means that any light going to the driver is not the focused beam and shouldn’t dazzle them.

There have been many complaints that the unit gets hot when at a standstill. I personally don’t think this is a problem, it’s generally a good indicator that the thermal paste is working. The unit has been designed to keep cool by the passing air, when you stop the air doesn’t pass it and the unit heats up.

The main downside of me is the mode switching, it’s a simple button press on the back of the unit to do everything, but the off mode is included in the other options, which means to do a full cycle you need to turn the unit off. Not the best thing when you are cycling off-road at night!

The mounting bracket isn’t the best, it’s a rubber bottom with a rubber o-ring that keeps the unit tight on the handlebars. It is good because it is easy to put on and remove but bad because it won’t keep the unit secure on the handlebars. Lots of users have complained about the unit moving around whilst going over a bump or similar. I get around this by mounting the light under my handlebars but others have got around this by modifying the mount and adding on a cam based bracket which is much more secure and just as quick to remove. It is a fairly simple task to do, simply a single screw to remove the standard mount and then add the new mount with the screw.

Something to consider is the battery pack, it’s an external based one which you need to charge at the mains, no simple AA batteries for this unit. Luckily on the back of the light is an indicator of how much juice is left and if you go for the waterproof case then that also has a volt meter on it. With a light of this power and a batter like this you really need to get a good charging routine thought out if you are going to use it regularly on the commute, the last thing you want is this to die on a dark lane!

An important factor is the charger, if you buy from outside the UK you will probably get an american pin charger. I found it difficult to find an adapter which it fitted in properly due to the chargers design and the adapters design they never gelled properly. It also doesn’t perform quite the same as the 3 pin plug, so definitely worth investing in a 3 pin charger for one of these if you are in the UK.

The cost of these devices can vary massively depending on where you buy them from. You can get them cheap as chips if you buy one from deal extreme but the delivery time can be several weeks due to the way they work. Buy from the UK re-seller or from ebay and you are looking to pay more but it’s still a great price for the power the light puts out.

There are a few variants of the MJ-808, the best one in my opinion is the 3-mode unit with the waterproof battery pack. It’s the most reliable and has the best battery. I use this light for commuting all year round, it stands out from every other cycling light and makes the Hope Vision 1 look like a child’s toy.

Conclusion

A great value light for all kind of uses but be careful if using it on the road, you can easily dazzle other road users .

You’re Looking for Trouble

I’m often told that I’m looking for trouble when I go out on my bicycle. After all, anyone that videos their bicycle ride is quite clearly acting up to the camera!

Comments range from

I ride a bike everyday and have never been aggressed in any way, so do thousands of others. The reason why is we aren’t looking for it.

to

it looks to me like you are looking for trouble and antagonising people for the benefit of the camera.

These comments come from all kinds of people, even from cyclists. They base this opinion around a few videos and presume that because I cycle in a position which they think is incorrect or because I did something different to what they would have done then I am acting up to the camera.

There are a few things to consider before making the assumption that I am looking for trouble. Distance, time, location, vehicle interactions and limited view.

Distance

My commute is 17 miles each way and I cycle to work and back again 5 days a week. Totalling my weekly mileage at 170 miles and that is not including the miles I do on the weekends. I miss a few days because of illness, holiday and occasionally bad weather. So my yearly mileage is normally around 7,000 miles. Much higher than the average cyclist.

Time

I work the 9 to 5, so the time I’m on the road is at rush hour, 170 miles a week at rush hour! Lots of traffic trying to get to work as quickly as possible and a few of them not thinking about anyone else but themselves.

Location

I commute from Croydon to central London. Whilst Croydon isn’t as big as central London, there is still a large quantity of traffic and I’m sure we are all aware of the traffic in central . I also follow some of the busiest routes in south London, with lots of different kinds of traffic all trying to get to their destination as quickly as possible.

Vehicle Interactions

In a single day I will have nearly a thousand interactions with other vehicles, by that I mean them passing me or me passing them. So weekly it’s +5,000 interactions but I only upload maybe 10 videos a week. Why? Because I’m not looking for trouble and most people drive safely. There are a few videos where at the time I think it was bad but on reflection it doesn’t look so bad on the video, in this case I don’t bother to upload the video

Limited View

Most of my videos show bad drivers, so of course it might look like I’m out looking for them. I rarely post videos of good drivers, mainly because they don’t get many as many views and it’s hard to see how good a driver really is.

Conclusion

I bet it doesn’t look like I’m antagonizing drivers or looking for trouble 99% of the time, and that is because I’m not, the other 1% is just down to people’s perceptions of a minority of incidences where they think they would have done better.
Pedal 7,000 miles in my shoes, ride 170 miles a week on the same roads as me and see how you react.

Hope Vision 1 Review

Featured

The Hope Vision 1 bicycle light is Hope’s bottom of the range bicycle light but don’t let that put you off. The CNC machined case makes the light full water proof and the Vision 1 puts out over 200 lumens from only four AA batteries, something not achieved by many other lights.

Hope Vision 1 Beam

The Vision 1 has 4 light modes, 1 flash and 3 steady ones. Making it a perfect commuting light, especially if you travel through multiple types of roads (lit vs unlit). The Hope Vision 1 is often praised by its quality, Hope certainly is traditionally british as the make good quality parts and offer a fantastic service. The whole product is well thought out and well designed.

Due to the narrow beam a single Vision 1 is not enough for cycling off-road or on unlit roads at night-time in my opinion, two Vision 1’s are enough. Whilst the narrow beam does have that disadvantage, it has an advantage when using it in other traffic. Pointing the beam on the road in front of you means you don’t blind other road users, you light the road up in front of you and you are made visible!

Something which crops up in other lights of similar target market is how you turn it off and change modes. For a light which is used in the dark and potentially off-road it is important how it handles this. The Hope Vision one can only be turned off by the user if the battery is removed or if you hold the power button. Pressing the button cycles through the light modes and this is how it should be.
Other models of lights have the off mode in the button cycle, which means if you want to change back to the first mode you must turn the light off first which either means crashing or stopping your ride.

Hope Vision 1

The only downside to using a light with 4x AA batteries is that the light really does chew through them, using regular Duracell batteries will be expensive and small capacity rechargeable batteries just don’t last long enough. High capacity rechargeable batteries are a good value purchase but you still need to work out a good recharging scheme so you don’t get caught out. At least you can rest in the fact that if you do run out of juice whilst on the road you can at least pop into a petrol station or corner shop and buy some batteries which will get you home, unlike the lights which use special battery packs.

The major downside of the hope vision one is the lack of power indicator, it is one often brought up by people who have bought one and is a real problem with its hunger for battery power. You can get around it with good battery management but be warned, when the power levels get too low the light will suddenly switch off and you will only get a few more minutes on the lowest power setting.

All in all it’s one of the best and brightest lights on the market for commuters, it’s at the higher end of the scale for most commuters but it’s reliability (as long as you manage the batteries) and power more than out weighs the price you have to pay, this light will last you years!

Where to buy one from?

Prices range from £70 – £90 so make sure you shop around

Boston cyclists have it rough too

Cyclists across the globe have to deal with inconsiderate drivers that don’t understand our needs or that we are allowed to use the road. Many of us have taken to using cameras, a cyclist in Boston recently posted a video of a driver who was very impatient as he cycled down a busy road with lots of hazards, the driver could have easily changed lanes to pass the cyclists but instead choose to sound his horn and pass him with only inches to spare.

As always, the driver shortly stopped in traffic and got out of his car asking the cyclist if he wanted a fight. Quite rightly the cyclist didn’t want to get into a fight with someone who was more than likely several times the size of him.
When the cyclist went to the Police they where not interested in what happened, even when the cyclist stated that he had the whole incident on video. I’m sure most of us have experienced problems like this, lets just hope it changes as the grow of camera use in cyclists increases.

Which taxi drivers are the worst?

I’ve had my fair share of incidences on the road, some of the worst have been from taxi drivers but out of those,most of them are public hire taxi’s. This could be down to the fact that they are essentially untouchable. The PCO in london licenses +60,000 taxi’s and from the response I have had from them, they do not care what their drivers get up to on the roads. And as I’ve said before, when drivers don’t get pulled up on their behaviour on the roads, it spirals out of control.

Dangerous Pass – GY07 ***

I’m back on the road, unfortunately on 4 wheels and with an engine. I’ve had some camera mounts for a windshield for quite some time but I’ve not been able to use them because of my broken clavicle. Today was the day that I felt I could drive again and I went for a drive on some of the country roads around me. That’s one of the highlights of living in Croydon, It’s a big town, close to the city but also close to the country side.

Traveling down Shirely Church Road in Croydon when an approaching car flashed me as they where approaching a cyclist on their side of the road. I knew that it meant they didn’t care about the cyclists safety or mine and they just wanted to get passed. My instincts where to brake hard, move as far to the left as possible and sound the horn to A. warn the cyclist of the approaching danger B. to show my disapproval to the driver.

The driver passes only inches away from the cyclist and barely slowed, I honestly thought that we were either going to have a head on collision or the cyclist was going to get knocked over. Luckily neither happened but that won’t stop me from reporting this driver to Road Safe London. Unfortunately I was only able to get half the number plate but I’m hoping that it can still be traced and the driver spoken to about their actions on the road, they are quite clearly a danger to vulnerable road users and are putting their convince before the safety of others!

Going for a Guinness World Record?

Track stand at the Atlanta, GA, USA Critical Mass

Image via Wikipedia

For some reason I was browsing the Guinness World Record site the other week and came across a record which I think I brake on nearly ever cycle ride.

The current world record for track standing is held by Jim Dechamp, USA and his track stand was 21.34 seconds long. We don’t know the exact circumstances around the world record, so it’s hard to say if I could do it for longer in the same situation and under the same rules. I know I can track stand on either fixed or freewheel hub for longer than that, and I’m sure that there are thousands of others in the world that can do it for longer.

Remonstrating with drivers

Is it really worth remonstrating with drivers that put us in danger?

I’ve done my fair share of remonstrating, some would say that I go to far, it’s hard to control what you say when you have adrenaline pumping through your arteries. The adrenaline is usually a result of a near collision experience, a collision which could have resulted in death or serious injury.

Most people don’t like to be criticised by strangers and I think that is fair enough. But some people go to extreme lengths when they have been. Just watch the video below, the driver passes the cyclist far too close and is shortly stuck in traffic. The cyclist remonstrates with the driver about their actions only a few meters behind them and the driver clearly doesn’t like it as they shortly brake test the cyclist and then tailgate them.
They part ways but the driver, unknown to the cyclist, turns around and follows them as they stop at a petrol station, the driver continues past but pulls up on the other side of the road. As the cyclist approaches where the driver is parked, the driver pulls away and quite clearly drives towards the cyclist as they take a side road.

And another example below, where a video camera cyclist confronts a driver that didn’t stop at a zebra crossing, a rather minor driving error in the bigger picture but worth highlighting it, but doing so in person? Not so sure, this driver clearly doesn’t like being told how to drive by someone else and when a note about where to see the offending video is thrown in the vehicle and the driver is then cut up on the roundabout. The driver takes it back on the cyclist by cutting him up. It really isn’t worth remonstrating with drivers, even if these 2 are only 1 in a 100.

I stopped talking to drivers* about their bad driving quite some time ago, I find it’s best just to take a deep breath and get on with it. I have it on video and will report them to the police if need be.

* Well starting conversations, I can’t help it if people get out of their vehicle and confront me.